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Both parents helped son in Groton deal cocaine, police say

By Izaskun E. Larrañeta

Publication: The Day

Published 05/02/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 05/02/2013 12:13 AM
All three charged in sweep last month

A Groton man who local and federal authorities say was a major cocaine dealer in southeastern Connecticut had help in the drug trade from the unlikeliest of sources - his mother and father.

Pedro "Cheito" Rivera was among nearly 100 people rounded up in a law enforcement operation last month that involved some 700 federal, state and local officials. Authorities said they dismantled overlapping conspiracies that supplied much of the cocaine and heroin that flows into the region from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and New York City.

As part of the investigation, court-authorized wiretaps intercepted phone calls between Rivera and his parents, Juan "Cheo" Rivera-Ortiz and Ivette "Ivy" Pagan-Rodriguez.

Rivera-Ortiz, 68, and Pagan-Rodriguez, 62, were arrested in Morovis, Puerto Rico, as the drug raid here was underway.

"The investigation has revealed that Rivera's parents are instrumental in assisting him in obtaining cocaine in Puerto Rico and shipping it to the New London area," according to a recently released affidavit.

Some of the conversations that led to the trio's arrest were laid out in an affidavit prepared by Special Agent Rod Khattabi of the Department of Homeland Security.

At about 9:19 a.m. on March 29, Rivera called his mother and asked for the tracking number of a package that his parents had sent to Connecticut. Authorities allege that the package contained cocaine, the affidavit said.

Pagan-Rodriguez noted that it was Holy Friday and that it was possible that Rivera would not receive the parcel that day. Holy Friday is a religious holiday in Puerto Rico, and all government offices and most businesses are closed.

"They work here all the time, mom," Rivera replied. "Please quickly so I can call the other one."

At about 9:24 a.m., Rivera received a call from Ricardo Davila Mercado of Groton, who police said assisted Rivera in cocaine trafficking. Rivera told Davila Mercado that the package was arriving that day and that he and his girlfriend needed to be on alert because it was arriving at Davila Mercado's house.

Davila Mercado was also arrested during the drug raid.

At about 9:44 a.m., Rivera called his mother again asking for the tracking number. She told him that she needed to get his father. About 10 minutes later, Rivera-Ortiz texted his son the tracking number, the affidavit said.

Three minutes later, Rivera called his father. Rivera Ortiz asked his son if the package had arrived, and Rivera said it would arrive later in the day.

After learning the tracking number from the wiretap, Postal Inspector Thomas Ardito found the package and took custody of it, and a federal search warrant was obtained.

Inside the package, postal inspectors found about 525 grams of cocaine wrapped in two plastic bundles and stashed inside an empty powdered mix container, the affidavit said.

While the package was in custody of postal inspectors, Rivera called his mother again and questioned if she had put the correct address on the package. Pagan-Rodriguez replied, "Of course."

Later that day, at 3:48 p.m., Rivera called his father and told him that "it" did not arrive and that he was "still waiting."

"But listen, did you guys write down correctly the number, 105," Rivera asked his father.

Rivera Ortiz said, "Yes... of course, one-zero-five," which the affidavit said was a reference to the apartment number where the packaged was supposed to be delivered.

Less than a week after the wiretapped conversations, the region's largest drug enforcement operation took place.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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